Best Places To Retire In North Carolina For 2020

We analyzed over 57 places in North Carolina to identify the ones that offer the most to retirees.

Editor’s Note: Data has been updated for 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the best places to retire in North Carolina.

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Are you reading this article on a slow Monday morning, wondering how you will make it through yet another long work week? Even if we love our jobs, there are always moments where you wonder what will life be like after work? Well, you should take a look at these cities in North Carolina for retirement.

Retirement is a time in life when you can pursue your hobbies in greater depth. For example, you open a small bike shop in Boone as a hobby or you can bike on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Or how about taking out that old DSLR camera you've always wanted to master and use it to create breathtaking landscape shots in Asheville? If those scenarios seem appealing to you, then perhaps moving to North Carolina for retirement would be a great option for you.

North Carolina has the best of everything: great weather, access to beaches and mountains, affordability, and great community involvement. But where in North Carolina is the best to retire? We crunched the numbers to determine the places that offer retirees safety, affordability, and things to do. It's the kind of criteria you can count on -- this is the sixth time we've ranked the best places to retire in the Tarheel State. And many of these places appear on our other lists of best places for families and safest cities in North Carolina -- they are just overall good places to call home.

So if you're looking for a place to settle down for good, grab a biscuit, a good cup of coffee, and read on.

Why did Smithfield take the top spot? And where are Greensboro and Durham?

We analyzed 50 cities to determine the top ten best cities using retirement factors like safety, affordability, and access to fun stuff. The best place to retire in North Carolina? Congratulations Smithfield!

Smithfield is a small town sandwiched between Charlotte, Statesville, and Black Mountain in North Carolina that is perfect for any retiree. You can spend weekends swimming Lake Norman or camping in the mountains.

North Carolina is a state that constantly comes up on lists about great places to live in the U.S., so why not move here for retirement? Keep reading to learn more about our methodology and to see why each city is perfect for retirement.

For more North Carolina state reading:

The 10 Best Places To Retire In North Carolina For 2020

Smithfield, NC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 12,117
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 3)
Median Rent: $788
Distance to Closest Airport: 34 miles
More on Smithfield: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Newton, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 13,005
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 1)
Median Rent: $730
Distance to Closest Airport: 34 miles
More on Newton: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Where's the best city to retire in North Carolina? That would be Newton. Surprised?

Newton moved up 22 spots to clinch the number one best place to retire in North Carolina for 2019. They scored off the snackabiilty chart in terms of amenities and commute times.

They have an airport within 35 miles and they have boatloads of activities that retired people like to do: like golf and tennis.

Newton also has a Super Walmart; so if you only want to semi-retire, you can get a job as a greeter.

Factor in low crime and lots of friendly people, and you've got one heck of a place to call home.

Eden, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 15,121
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 4)
Median Rent: $646
Distance to Closest Airport: 68 miles
More on Eden: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Eden comes in as the 6th best city to retire to in North Carolina for 2019. While there are tons of places in North Carolina that seem like they are in the middle of nowhere, you won't feel that way here.

Eden's average rent is doable and you can be on a plane to anywhere in less than an hour.

However, you probably won't feel the need to travel much after you retire here, Eden is located on the border of North Carolina and Virginia. You will have two states to explore. That sounds like the best of every retiree's world to us.

Lexington, NC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 18,897
Rank Last Year: -
Median Rent: $653
Distance to Closest Airport: 55 miles
More on Lexington: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Cary, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 163,266
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 3)
Median Rent: $1,199
Distance to Closest Airport: 6 miles
More on Cary: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Review Of Cary by HomeSnacks User

I grew up in Cary and lived there until I moved away for college. It is a town that I would recommend to anyone for any reason. Cary is a place for everyone, great for seniors, great for raising kids, and great for young adults and professionals. The schools are fantastic, there is a great selection of food, activities, and experiences. It was a wonderful place for me to grow up and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for their forever home.

The schools in Cary were excellent, providing high quality education and service to the community. There are also various restaurants catering to different national cuisine. The only issue I've had as a young adult going back to Cary is that there is very little nightlife and the young adult population is on the lower end, mostly being kids coming home from college while on breaks. This is not unmanageable, as a city with a bustling nightlife is nearby, about 15 minutes away.

Lenoir, NC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 17,899
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 3)
Median Rent: $606
Distance to Closest Airport: 57 miles
More on Lenoir: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Where's the third best city to retire to in North Carolina? You might be surprised to hear it, but it's Lenoir.

Not only is Lenoir one of the most beautiful cities in the state, it's close to the Blue Ridge Mountains. And mountains mean more hiking, biking, and just good 'ol fashioned scenic drives when you need to get out and about on a retiree's budget. #Score

And, if you want to get away to a bigger city, it's easy. Yeah, people in Lenoir have it made.

Leland, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 19,157
Rank Last Year: 19 (Up 12)
Median Rent: $1,124
Distance to Closest Airport: 7 miles
More on Leland: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Southern Pines, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 13,694
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 1)
Median Rent: $895
Distance to Closest Airport: 58 miles
More on Southern Pines: Real Estate | Data | Photos

With over 20 golf courses in and around Southern Pines, this is every golf enthusiasts mecca. And if we know anything about retirees, they love to play golf.

We also know these golf clubs provide ample opportunities for retirees to explore activities like tennis, swim aerobics, bridge get the picture.

Heck with all of these clubs at your disposal, 'lunch with the ladies' will have a whole new meaning if you move to this city in Moore County.

Did we mention there's an Amtrak Station in downtown Southern Pines? Forget the need for an airport. Hopping on a train instead of the hustle and bustle of an overcrowded airport is not only convenient, it's first class. #YouDeserveIt

Albemarle, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 15,889
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 3)
Median Rent: $686
Distance to Closest Airport: 43 miles
More on Albemarle: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Our fourth best city to retire to in North Carolina for 2019 is Albemarle.

Albemarle can be really really really exciting for a retiree. It's located between the Uwharrie National Forest and Charlotte. You can take a hike and visit the Queen's City all in the same day.

Albemarle crushed our snackability scale in three categories. This Stanley County city has a boatload of stuff for retirees to do, it's very diverse, and it's easy to get around.

Asheboro, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 25,859
Rank Last Year: 20 (Up 10)
Median Rent: $648
Distance to Closest Airport: 58 miles
More on Asheboro: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Review Of Asheboro by HomeSnacks User

I live in Asheboro NC and think it's a pretty nice town, but I keep to myself. Sure I keep my car and house doors locked bc I think as drug problems increase across the nation so does theft. Also think it increases unemployment. It's my opinion that some of these incorporated prisons should be rehab centers, but my opinion goes as far as my income; not far. Still think it's a good idea. May turn many potential inmates into employable prospects.

How We Determined The Best Places To Retire In the Tar Heel State for 2020

To create our list of the best places in North Carolina to retire, we first used Census data to find all places in the Tar Heel State -- 736 cities and towns.

We then narrowed it down to places with at least 10,000 people that weren't townships. This left us with 50 places from across the state.

For these 50, we looked at the following criteria taken from the Census, the FBI's Crime Report, National Weather Service, and OpenFlights:

  • Low cost of living as measured by rent
  • Low crime
  • Things to do (Museums, Colleges, and Libraries in town)
  • Nice weather
  • Distance to the closest international airport
  • Other retirees (High median age)

We then ranked each of these places for each criteria from one to 50, with the lowest number being the best.

Finally, we took the average rank across these criteria. The place, in this case Smithfield, with the lowest average rank was crowned the best of the best, a place for you to start your second careers. You can download the data here.

Maybe You're Not Ready To Retire In North Carolina Yet...

So there you have it, the best place to retire in North Carolina goes to Smithfield.

If you're not ready to hang up your office apparel yet, then these places might be up your alley:

  1. Hope Mills
  2. Havelock
  3. High Point

For more North Carolina reading, check out:

Where Are The Best Places To Retire In North Carolina?

Rank City Population Median Rent
1 Smithfield 12,117 $788
2 Newton 13,005 $730
3 Eden 15,121 $646
4 Lexington 18,897 $653
5 Cary 163,266 $1,199
6 Lenoir 17,899 $606
7 Leland 19,157 $1,124
8 Southern Pines 13,694 $895
9 Albemarle 15,889 $686
10 Asheboro 25,859 $648

How Is The Area In ?

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.